Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Authors From Hell

I am not a publisher but I've been published by several different ones over the years and I've been friends with most of them. They've shared various complaints about what one called "authors from hell."

Believe me, I've tried very hard not to be one of them.

Usually, the biggest problem stems from the fact the author doesn't understand the publishing process. After a publisher accepts a book it doesn't automatically become the publisher's only project. Usually it will be at the end of a line of already accepted books in what is a rather complicated process of preparation for publication. Not all publishers do the same things, but it entails having an illustrator producing the cover, the manuscript edited and sent back to the author to go through it carefully once again, having the manuscript put into the correct format for the content for the print book as well as any e-book editions.

Bugging the publisher about when the book will come out doesn't help. It just takes the publisher away from the process of publishing. Don't expect the impossible. That doesn't mean you can't ask for a possible pub date especially if you want to plan in-person visits and Internet blog tours. But when you get that date, add about a month or even more on before you start setting dates. Why? Because stuff happens--just like it happens to you, it happens to the publisher too. You want to have books in hand before an event; always better to be safe than sorry.

Every author, before submission or soon after acceptance, should have a book blurb--one for the back of the book and one to use in promotion. The author should also have a professional bio for the back of the book--and others too to use in publicity. An author photo is also needed--a professional one is best, but sometimes a good candid photo will work as well. The only person in it should be the author. Why did I put this here? Because some authors aren't prepared with any of this and have to be begged--which puts the author into the "hell" category.

Even though you think your book is certainly better than someone else's, and it might be, it isn't going to get preferential treatment. And in fact, the more you bug, the less likely it will be rushed through. And in fact, some authors have had their contracts terminated because of too much bugging.

Know that the biggest part of promotion is up to you. No matter who publishes you, whether it's a New York publisher or a small press like Oak Tree, you need to get busy planning your promotion and continue it long after it comes outs. One bit of advice we heard at the PSWA conference is, "Your book lives as long as you continue to promote it."

You must realize that people have to know that you have a book out there. Sure, we'd all like to just send out the manuscript and then start with the next book, and you should--but you also need to be promoting at the same time. Try all different kinds of promotion--one kind doesn't suit all. You'll find what works best for you and exploit that--but dabble with other kinds too.

Do Internet promotion--especially if your books is also an e-book and on Kindle and other formats. And don't neglect the in-person events.

Be thankful that you did get published. Yes, many people do it themselves these days--and if they didn't promote, their books would be dead. (And in my opinion, some of those books weren't ready to be published.) I've chosen to be published by two small presses because I do want to have time to write--don't think I could squeeze in the publishing process and creating a cover and doing everything else that needs to be done.

The Golden Rule works for authors too-- treat your publisher like you'd like to be treated.

And yes, I'm working on another Rocky Bluff P.D. novel--reading it to my critique group, will hire an editor once that's done and before I send it in. I'm also planning the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Spirit Shapes, blog tour. And yes, I did sent a short email to the publisher asking for a tentative publishing date to spring from and I did it with two sentences. (That's another no-no, don't write huge long emails to your publisher. Chances are he/she won't read all the way to the end.)

And that's my opinion about keeping out of the fire.



Susan said...

Excellent post, one that a huge number of writers should benefit from. My cover is safe - I didn't see myself in there!

Lorna Collins - said...

I totally agree with every word as usual! Another issue is bad-mouthing a publisher, even if you have had a bad experience, to other people. Finding the right publisher is like finding the right pair of pants. Not all of them will be a good fit for you. If that is the case, find a new one and MOVE ON! We, too, have been fortunate to have been published by two small publishers who were good fits for us.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Susan, I suspect we've all made mistakes. And Lorna, you are absolutely right, finding a good fit isn't always easy. But if you are bad mouthing publishers, word gets around.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Love the title of your blog, Marilyn. It sure pulled me in. Guess that means titles sell!!!:)

Mary Montague Sikes

Kathy Bennett said...

I'm self-published, so I hope my books weren't on your mind when writing your article.

Good advice and I love the cover for you book!

Vonnie said...

To be honest, in 15 years of writing full-time and many other years part-time, I've never associated with any of these writers who are reputed to do these things. Most writers I know are publisher-savvy. Starting to wonder if these bad people are an urban myth!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

No, Kathy, you are a good writer.

And Vonnie, you are fortunate. I could even tell more interesting tales about authors who should know better.

Eileen Obser said...

Thanks for this, Marilyn. It's so timely, since Oak Tree is publishing my first book, a memoir, by January, and I sure don't want to be an author from hell. I'll hold on to this blog.

jrlindermuth said...

Good advice as always, Marilyn.

Billie Johnson said...

As usual, your remarks are spot on, Marilyn, so we thank you totally for sharing them. At OTP, we try hard to respond to all the authors' concerns, but it gets really challenging. With 200+ authors on board, even one question per author per week can produce a ton of email. This is one reason why we put out the Author's Handbook and the Book Promo Handbook...there are a LOT of answers in there.

So long as authors realize that we are in this together, author and publisher, and we therefore try VERY hard to do all the right things and none of the wrong things....then we should be able to work together successfully!

Billie Johnson

Marilyn Levinson said...

Great post, Marilyn, as always!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

And I guess I ought to tell you that the publisher who came up with the title, Authors from Hell, was not Billie Johnson of Oak Tree. I've had several publishers over the years and heard the same kind of complaints several times.

marja said...

Words to live by, Marilyn. I might add, don't be a diva or the author from hell when you do a book signing or any other event, either. I've heard complaints from book store managers, too. Thanks for sharing!
Marja McGraw

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Marja, how true. And when you are signing with others, don't try to hog all the people who come to your table. Certainly have had that experience, but not with anyone on this list.

Lesley Diehl said...

Good post. A reminder that like begets like and,that goes for authors working with publishers, other authors and readers.

Earl Staggs said...

Great advice, Marilyn, for new writers and great reminders for those of us who've been around a century or two.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

One other point, publishers talk to one another, and share their authors faults--yep, they do.